Matt Hughes: Georges St. Pierre is a "standup character"
St. Pierre to take on Hughes for third time, with title shot on the line
THE CANADIAN PRESS
Matt Hughes welcomed Canadian Georges St. Pierre as his next opponent Monday, while regretting the fact he won't able to take out his anger on injured champion Matt Serra next month at UFC 79 in Las Vegas.
Serra, who has dumped on rival coach Hughes regularly during Season 6 of "The Ultimate Fighter" reality TV show, was forced to withdraw from the Dec. 29 mixed martial arts fight because of two herniated disks suffered while teaching a jiu-jitsu class last week.
"It will be a pleasure to face Georges St. Pierre, a standup character like he is, as opposed to somebody like Matt Serra who's just running his mouth," Hughes told a conference call Monday.
St. Pierre (13-2) was slated to meet the winner of the Serra-Hughes fight for the 170-pound title next year. Now the 26-year-old from Montreal will face Hughes (43-5) at the Mandalay Bay in a five-round bout between former champions for the interim title, with Serra waiting in the wings.
The 34-year-old Hughes and St. Pierre, considered the cream of the 170-pound crop, split their first two bouts.
"I'm glad to fight Matt Hughes," St. Pierre said. "I consider him as the best welterweight on the planet right now and it's going to be a great match."
Hughes, while relishing the chance at a rubber match with St. Pierre, acknowledged he would miss the immediate shot at Serra.
"I would much rather fight Matt Serra, just for my buildup anger that I've kind of got right now with what he's said and he's done," said Hughes.
"Georges is one of those guys where he's always going to be around the sport. He's just that good. Matt Serra's not, in my eyes. If he loses his next fight, he'll probably lose his fight after that and be out of the UFC."
The three fighters are intertwined in the 170-pound division. St. Pierre took the title from longtime champion Hughes at UFC 65 then promptly lost it to 10-1 underdog Serra in his first title defence at UFC 69.
St. Pierre's decision to step up and Hughes' decision to accept the revised UFC 79 main event turned a disaster into something positive for UFC president Dana White, who had essentially put the welterweight title on hold during the current season of "The Ultimate Fighter" to take advantage of the Hughes-Serra coaching rivalry.
"I was on suicide watch for about five hours," said White.
"Nobody's knocking the door down on short notice to fight Matt Hughes except Georges St. Pierre," he added.
St. Pierre has less than five weeks to prepare, but says he got a good fitness base from helping Rashad Evans train for his UFC 78 win over Michael Bisping. He said Vancouver's Denis Kang and Nate Marquardt - like Evans a teammate at Greg Jackson's camp in Albuquerque, N.M. - will help him prepare in the final weeks.
St. Pierre had a poor training camp prior to the Serra fight, citing injuries and family problems. This time is different despite the short leadup time, he stressed.
"It's a total different scenario," he said. "I have no injuries. I'm in great shape. My life is in order and I've been training really hard. The only thing I was not doing is I was not eating as well as I should.
"But genetically I'm lucky. I don't get fat. I don't have any health problems. I'm in the best shape in my life now. I'm sharp in training."
St. Pierre and Hughes have history.
Hughes handed a 23-year-old St. Pierre his first loss in their first meeting, at UFC 50 in October 2004, slapping on an armbar with one second remaining in the first round.
St. Pierre said later he showed too much respect to Hughes, one of his fighting idols, and couldn't even meet his eyes during the pre-fight staredown.
The Canadian was all business when they met two years later at UFC 65 in Sacramento, Calif. St. Pierre effectively mixed jabs with high and low kicks and, when Hughes bent to try a takedown, felled the champion with a shin to the head. The challenger finished the dazed Hughes with a flurry of punches and elbows at 1:25 of the second round.
The bout was not short on pre-fight hype.
St. Pierre angered Hughes by coming into the cage after the champion's win over B.J. Penn at UFC 63 in September 2006 and saying he was unimpressed by Hughes' performance. St. Pierre later said he had only said that because he had erroneously thought Hughes had called him out in his own post-fight comments. He later went to Hughes' dressing room to apologize.
Hughes, a smart fighter who has been known to get under opponents' skin, fuelled the fire with some comments on Canada's lack of warrior spirit prior to UFC 65.
When Serra shocked St. Pierre at UFC 69 in April, Hughes was seen smiling and saying: "I love it" from his ringside seat.
Hughes said Monday his reaction was one of "pure amazement" and happiness because the upset meant he would actually have a shot at Serra, whom he said was already dissing him.
This time Serra will be watching from the stands.
"I can't believe the position this puts me in," he told ufc.com. "I'm actually rooting for Matt Hughes so I can beat his ass."
Hughes is thinking another direction.
"Now my motivation is if I can beat Georges St. Pierre twice and only have him beat me one, that's a heck of a milestone," said Hughes. "Because I just really think him and I make up this welterweight division. I think Georges and I are far distant from anybody else the UFC has in that weight."
NOTES: Jonathan (The Road Warrior) Goulet of Victoriaville, Que., will meet Paul Georgieff in the Dec. 8 televised card featuring the finale of Season 6 of "The Ultimate Fighter" at The Palms in Las Vegas. The fight is one of four announced for the undercard to the Season 6 finale and the lightweight matchup between Roger Huerta and Clay Guida. Other bouts include Jared Rollins versus Jon Koppenhaver, Roman Mitichyan versus Dorian Price, and Troy Mandaloniz versus Richie Hightower. ... UFC president Dana White says he has yet to meet with disgruntled heavyweight champion Randy Couture.